A Triple Helix of University–Industry–Government
Edited by Riccardo Viale and Henry Etzkowitz
Chapter 10: The Knowledge Economy: Fritz Machlup’s Construction of a Synthetic Concept
1 Benoît Godin In 1962, the American economist Fritz Machlup published an influential study on the production and distribution of knowledge in the USA. Machlup’s study gave rise to a whole literature on the knowledge economy, its policies and its measurement. Today, the knowledge-based economy or society has become a buzzword in many writings and discourses, both academic and official. Where does Machlup’s concept of a knowledge economy come from? This chapter looks at the sources of Machlup’s insight. It discusses The Production and Distribution of Knowledge in the United States as a work that synthesizes ideas from four disciplines or fields of research – philosophy (epistemology), mathematics (cybernetics), economics (information) and national accounting – thus creating an object of study, or concept for science policy, science studies and the economics of science. INTRODUCTION According to many authors, think tanks, governments and international organizations, we now live in a knowledge-based economy. Knowledge is reputed to be the basis for many if not all decisions, and an asset to individuals and firms. Certainly, the role of knowledge in the economy is not new, but knowledge is said to have gained increased importance in recent years, both quantitatively and qualitatively, partly because of information and communication technologies (see Foray, 2004). The knowledge-based economy (or society) is only one of many conceptual frameworks developed over the last 60 years to guide policies. In this sense, it competes for influence with other frameworks such as national innovation systems and triple helix. Certainly, all these conceptual...
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